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For the Good of the State


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In this spy thriller enriched with scholarly and literary trivia, the plot hinges on interdepartmental rivalry in the British intelligence establishment. The rivalry is played out against a backdrop of Polish dissident groups and aging Soviet spies, and Price captures the essential isolation of spies from the real world and from any clear foreign policy goals. However, there's a lot of romantic nonsense about the Polish national character; one of the half-Polish British spooks, Sir Thomas Arkenshaw, is embroiled in a struggle between his stolid British and hot-blooded Polish genes. Nevertheless, the book is well written and has some good dialogue. Best of all, the bureaucrat who concocted that plot against his rivals finds it exploding in his face. Even in the spy world there's still some justice. Louise A. Merriam, L.E. Phillips Memorial P.L., Eau Claire, Wis.

Price's literate espionage novels (Here Be Monsters is the most recent) are of the cat-and-mouse variety, with an emphasis on mood, character and plot intricacy requiring more than a little patience. Those virtues are carried to a fault in this extremely slow-building and talky novel. Thomas Arkenshaw, a young British agent with experience in Beirut and other hot spots, is assigned as bodyguard to David Audley, a veteran intelligence officer who has been summoned to meet with high-ranking KGB officer Nikolai Panin. But before the two meet, Audley is shot at and one of his men is killed. Polish politics, double agents, internal rivalries and a beguiling female CIA agent all come into play in what is certainly a departure from the run-of-the-mill spy thriller. The snail's pace of the action, however, will deter all but the most devoted Price fan. (June)

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